In Conversation With Venetia Berry
I first met Venetia Berry while sitting in my friend’s living room.
Nika Diamond-Krendel (founder of Paradise Row) had invited me to meet the artist she intended to feature as her guest for the first flagship event of her new venture ‘Paradise Curates’. After bonding over the plight of the Millennial and reminiscing about teenage angst, MSN and the general challenges we’re all facing under the current climate, I discovered I had found another ally in Venetia.
Not only was her work desirable, she’s extremely easy to talk to and relatable. While I had shared the difficulties I had encountered in fashion in the realm of transparency and deciphering greenwashing while trying to ‘walk the walk’, I later discovered—thanks to one of her insta-story posts—she too, was going through a period of introspection. So, in light of all things sustainable, I asked her if we could have another chat about it, the interview is what followed:
YJH: You recently shared an insta story about your investigations into cruelty free paint, what was the outcome? Have you found oils/acrylic that is non toxic/free from animal fats?
VB: I was taught how to make and prime canvases at art school, we used three layers rabbit skin glue to prime the canvases for painting – skipping this step would mean the paint would be completely absorbed by the fabric of the canvas and eventually mould. I had been using this technique ever since, despite it being a slightly smelly process! However, I gave up meat last year and have since been interested in alternative art materials, for the sake of the environment and animal welfare.
When I started looking into it, I naively thought that it would only be the rabbit skin glue I would need to replace. In reality there are a startling number of art materials containing animal ingredients, whether it be the skin for glue, the bones for the deepest black, hog hair for brushes or ox bladders for paint thinners.
The best point of research I came across was a blog post by Jacksons Art pointing out some of the leading brands that create materials without animal products. It may be hard to believe but most brands don’t shout about this, these details are hidden away amongst the FAQS. Jacksons also now have a ‘Vegan’ filter on their site, which has proved extremely helpful. So far I have swapped my rabbit skin glue for Lascaux acrylic size, which provides a great base for oil or acrylic. paint and some inks from Schminke.
At the moment I use Michael Harding oil paint, when it runs out I intend to replace it with Langridge oils. Luckily I have never been a fan of the hog hair brushes, so I am okay on that matter!
You can barely see it on the canvas, unlike the rabbit skin glue, which can give a slightly shiny reflection. I have also acquired a set of Lascaux acrylic I intend to use up all of the animal based products I do have, because throwing them away would not be help to anyone.
YJH: In terms of spaces (be it your own personal space at home or studio) what do you look for in your ideal surroundings?
VB: I am a real homemaker – I love rearranging my home and adding new things to improve the atmosphere. It is slightly harder to create this atmosphere in my studio, as it is my workspace, and considerably less tidy than my flat!
However, I found a big green velvet sofa on eBay, which has transformed my studio. I also love having plants around, I love how they can break up the typical straight lines of a room as well as helping to clean the air, much needed in my Brixton flat and studio. Something else found in both my flat and studio is an abundance of books.
I am lucky enough to own a fair few beautiful art books which I can flick through for inspiration. I really can’t stand a bare wall; both my flat and studio walls are covered in framed exhibition posters, etchings and paintings. Mostly my own works at the moment, as I very slowly start collection the work of other artists.
So if you can imagine this, with a burning candle, a cup of tea and Desert Island Discs playing in the background – those are pretty much my ideal surroundings!
YJH: IKEA has admitted they’re totally redesigning their business model to suit Millennials lifestyle/spending habits) what would you like to see more of/change from the interiors world?
VB: In the last few years there has been more of a push towards individuals as opposed to brands. In my opinion, this is wonderful and often collaborations can be integral to an artist, illustrator or designer’s success. It would be great to see large companies continue to collaborate with individual creative.
This is a win-win situation for everyone, as the buyer is able to own something with a limited edition. There is nothing worse than going to a friend’s house only to discover that its contents match your own! [End]
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